Comic Book Review: Punisher War Journal #5: Casualties of War

The Revolution has been surprised at what a great read Punisher: War Journal has been. I have quickly become a big Matt Fraction fan. Fraction is delivering a consistently good read. I’m more than confident that Punisher: War Journal #5 is going to be another strong read. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We start with a young guy talking about how after 9-11 he decided to become a New York City cop. He was a beat cop and it wasn’t sexy, but he absolutely loved it. He never pulled his gun and helped people every day in stupid little ways that make all the difference.

We then zip to the present time with this young cop strolling his beat when an explosion occurs and out steps Bushwhacker with a woman hostage in his arms. The young cop draws his gun on Bushwhacker. The Bushwhacker demands for a helicopter. Bridge appears on the scene and tells Bushwhacker to give up. Bridge then tells the young cop to stand down. That this crime scene is now under Federal Jurisdiction. The young cop refuses to stand down. That this is his beat and he won’t stand down until the woman is safe.

Bushwhacker laughs at the young cop and asks him if he has enough artillery to stop Bushwhacker. The cop responds that all he needs is one shot. Bushwhacker laughs and fires his arm gun into the air. Bridge flinches with each shot. The young cop doesn’t and keeps perfectly still with his gun trained on Bushwhacker. Bridge then radios for some cape killers.

We shift to the New York Police having sectioned off the area and has set up a mobile communications base to coordinate dealing with Bushwhacker. Bridge gets a call from the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and is told that they have twenty minutes to resolve this situation before a squad of cape killers show up and splatters Bushwhacker.

Bridge comments that the young cop still refuses to relinquish his position and Bridge isn’t sure how much longer the kid can hold out. The TV news crews are on the scene since this all makes a great story. The police Chief doesn’t recognize the young cop and says it is odd that no one from his precinct has brought him in yet.

We see an armored S.W.A.T. team walk up next to the young cop and tell him that they have his back in this situation. The young cop introduces himself as Ian. Bushwhacker fires more shots into the buildings around him. Bushwhacker demands that Bridge get him his helicopter. Bushwhacker then decides to change his request. Since Bridge won’t get him a helicopter then Bushwhacker wants the Punisher. Bushwhacker makes his request on live TV.

Ian keeps his gun trained on Bushwhacker through all the craziness. A cop from Ian’s precinct shows up at the communications base at the scene. The cop tells Bridge that they have to get Ian out of there immediately.

We cut to one of the S.W.A.T. members asking Ian what precinct he is from. The S.W.A.T. member then tells Ian that if there is anything he needs to tell me that now would e a great time to do it.

We shift back to the cop from Ian’s precinct telling Bridge that Ian was one of their Auxiliary volunteers. That he isn’t a real cop. After 9-11, Giuliani upped the ranks of the Police’s Auxiliary Force. They didn’t get guns or radios. They were to see and to be seen. To give the Police an omnipresence felt by tourists.

The cops says that Ian was a good kid and was a cop-groupie. He was great to have around. That they ended up having to let Ian go. And that Ian then lost his whole family in the Stamford incident.

We cut to Bushwhacker finally realizing that Ian’s badge doesn’t look like a normal cop’s badge. Bushwhacker realizes that Ian isn’t a real cop. Bushwhacker asks if Ian’s gun is real. Ian retorts for Bushwhacker to try him and find out. Bushwhacker then asks Bridge what in the world is going on. That this isn’t what they talked about.

Ian then grabs Bushwhacker’s gun arm and tells him he is under arrest. The Punisher then appears on the scene. Bushwhacker throws Ian off of him and points his gun arm at the Punisher. Suddenly, Bridge shoots Bushwhacker in the next. Bushwacker falls to the ground. The New York Cop in control of the scene asks Bridge what Bushwacker meant by “This isn’t what we talked about?” Bridge responds that he has no idea.

We see Punisher walking away from the scene. The Punisher thinks how Bridge has stooped so low as to throw in with a guy like Bushwhacker just to lure the Punisher out.

Suddenly, the video footage of the shooting of Captain America comes across the jumbo screens of Time Square. Punisher stops dead in his tracks with a stunned look on his face. The Punisher says “No.” “Not him.” End of issue.

The Good: Punisher War Journal #5 was another good read. Fraction continues to string together a consistently strong read each and every issue in this young series. I know that not much happens in this issue, but I just found it to be a rather interesting read. Mainly because Fraction turned in a great character study with Ian the auxiliary cop.

Ian is a great character and gives Fraction the chance to show that being a hero has nothing to do with having super powers. Being a hero comes from the heart. And Ian certainly has the heart of a true hero. I thought it rocked how Ian hung in there like a bulldog and refused to back down. Even while the tough super cop Bridge ducked and flinched when Bushwhacker sprawled the area with bullets, Ian didn’t budge an inch and kept his gun on Bushwhacker.

Fraction did an excellent job with Ian’s character and really got me to like his character. Ian is an example that the common man can help make this world a better place. That we don’t need to rely on super powered masked heroes in spandex to make out world better. This is our world and it is our job to be like Ian and do what we can to help improve our society. The last thing we need to do is to sit back and expect the bickering super heroes to do what they judge is the best for our safety.

Fraction’s dialogue is as strong as always. Fraction is similar to Brubaker in his ability to generate excellent and unique external voices for each character. Street based heroes and realistic characters seem to be Fraction’s specialty. All the characters are nicely developed and interact well with each other.

Punisher War Journal #5 was a well plotting and paced issue. Fraction moves the story at an enjoyable measured and steady pace and built in momentum as it headed toward an intense ending that has plenty of impact on the reader. The momentum picked up once Ian was revealed as not actually being a cop. Then it was raised even more as we realize that Bushwhacker and Bridge are working together. Then we get Bridge shooting Bushwhacker and then the Punisher seeing the death of Captain America. That was a nicely done ending. It certainly made me curious to see how Captain America’s death impacts the Punisher’s character.

I’m glad that Fraction took the time to develop the complex relationship between Captain America and the Punisher in the earlier issues of this title. This should help to provide an good springboard for how Captain America’s death influences the Punisher.

We have seen the Punisher picking up Captain America’s mask at the end of Civil War #7. Add that to the obvious respect that the Punisher has for Captain America by refusing to fight him. Captain America’s death is sure to have a lasting impression on the Punisher.

The death of Captain America and Frank’s reaction to it shows what a wide range of influence Captain America had. Like it or not, Captain America has been a very inspirational hero for almost every hero in the Marvel Universe no matter their methods or tactics. I dig that even though the Punisher is a radically different style super hero from Captain America that the honor and respect for Steve Rogers is still there.

Captain America is a very unique hero who transcends all different types of barriers and differences. Captain America is probably the only super hero in the Marvel Universe that every other super hero looks up to as their own personal hero. And seeing the big bad mean old Punisher standing their with a stunned and hurt look on his face really emphasized Captain America’s distinctive position within the Marvel Universe.

Ariel Olivetti turns in another fine job with the artwork. I really dig Olivetti’s painted style. His art has such nice texture and depth. I know that many people may not like this painted style. However, I find Olivetti’s art an enjoyable change of pace from the rest of the art on other titles. Plus, Olivetti draws wonderfully expressive faces which boost the emotions of each character and make Fraction’s story even more intense.

The Bad: Yeah, Punisher War Journal #5 was most definitely a filler issue. And I certainly think it is far too early for filler issues. I mean, this is only issue #5 and Fraction has still failed to establish any type of long term story arc other than the general set up that the Punisher is waging war on crime and Bridge is going to track him down and arrest him.

It is also surprising the lack of panel time Frank has gotten in his own title over the past two issues. Punisher got about two pages worth of panel time in issue #4 and in issue #5 he gets about three pages of panel time.

Bushwhacker’s demands too clumsy and forced. First, Bushwhacker demands for a helicopter. Then he changes his demand from a helicopter to having the Punisher being delivered to him. Huh? Those are such totally random and completely different demands that there was a real lack of flow between the two of them.

I would have understood if Bushwhacker changed his demands for a helicopter to maybe a car that would take him to a plane. Or maybe just a car. But, to say hey, if I can’t get a helicopter then the next best thing is to give me the Punisher? No. That was way too awkward of a plot change just to try and force the Punisher into the scene.

Overall: Punisher War Journal #5 was another solid read. Fraction continues to crank out quality issues on this young title. Fraction has plenty of skills and I think he has just scratched the surface of possibilities with this title. I think that Punisher War Journal is only going to get better as the year progresses.